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Who Has More Long-Term Value, Miguel Sano or Byron Buxton?

It has been a unique season for two of the players perceived to be part of Minnesota’s long-term plan as a winning club in the American League Central. Miguel Sano missed time at the beginning of the year because of a freak off-season injury and now he has become the team’s record-breaking 30-home run hitter. Byron Buxton showed flashes of his superstar talent this year, but he hasn’t been able to stay healthy and on the field.

So which player will provide more long-term value for the Twins, Sano or Buxton?
Image courtesy of © Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Last week’s discussion over the future value of Luis Arraez garnered plenty of discussion so it made sense to look at two cornerstone pieces of Minnesota’s roster. Here are the arguments for Buxton and Sano.

Argument for Buxton
When Buxton is healthy and, on the field, there is no doubt that he is an impact player at the big-league level. Even with his injury struggles this season, he is arguably the best defensive player in the game. SABR’s Defensive Index had him tied for the league lead among outfielders through games played on August 18, which is quite the feat considering how games he has missed this season.

Buxton provides the bulk of his value by being able to produce in all aspects of the game because he has all the skills of a five-tool player. He has shown flashes of being one of the best players in baseball, but he hasn’t been healthy enough to stay on the field consistently.

Prior to this season, there were plenty of questions about his offensive approach. He continued to modify his swing to try to make more consistent contact. In 87 games this season, he hit .261/.314/.513 (.827) with 44 extra-base hits including 30 doubles. If Buxton is able to keep up that level of offensive production, with his defensive skills, there’s the potential for him to be in the MVP conversation at season’s end.

Argument for Sano
Sano wasn’t able to debut this season until mid-May because he suffered a freak injury while celebrating his team’s Winter League Championship. He has clearly made his mark on the Twins offensive line-up since being inserted back into the fold. His 33 home runs are a career high and his .927 OPS would also top his .916 OPS from his rookie campaign when he finished third in Rookie of the Year voting.

Buxton has played fewer than 100 games in all but one big-league season and Sano has surpassed that total in three of the last four seasons. Also, there’s a chance Sano moves to first base or even becomes a full-time DH. Sano might not provide much value on the defensive side of the ball in the years ahead, but he has been able to stay on the field more consistently.

Earlier in the season, I made the argument that I don’t think Sano would ever reach the superstar potential he seemed destined for as an amateur. Minnesota signed him with the potential to be a top-tier player in the league and I think expectations have shifted for him throughout his professional career. As he has shown this season, he can be a very good player that contributes to a great team, but I don’t think he will be considered the team’s top player.

The Minnesota Twins need Sano and Buxton to both play over 140 games in the same season to see what their true value could be as a dynamic duo. Buxton has shown superstar flashes, but his ability to stay healthy continues to be a question mark. Sano is having a break-out offensive campaign, but his defensive ability could be a long-term concern.

Which player do you believe will have more long-term value for the Twins? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.


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46 Comments

Buxton for me.His defense is top of the league valuable.Not sure Sano has a skill that will lead the league.Maybe home runs some year. Both are very valuable IF they can stay healthy

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Bill Brown69
Sep 23 2019 09:21 PM

They pay the front office to make these decisions. I am really not sure I would offer either a long term deal right now. They might have hit 2 homers on Keplar and Polanco over the winter. This winter lets hit 2 more but it is their decision on who to bet on. 

If the Twins think they can keep Sano working hard...look what happens when he does take pitches and lays off that spot the opposing team likes to pound, then there is a good chance he could become the next David Ortiz, making a comfortable living with renewable contracts staying in Minnesota. But deciding what to do with him for the next 3-5 years is more crucial. The benefit, he could move to first, which is a weak future spot for the Twins and depending on what they do with Cron, he could start there in 2020. Then slowly shift to fulltime DH. Seems the Twins always had a hardtime finding a fulltime DH before Cruz. The best may be yet to come. We'll see.

 

Buxton, for all his goodness, is still not there. Having that extra season of cheapness, compounded even more with a weak arbitration battle in 2020 because he basically only played half-a-season, gives the Twins at least another year of decision. But they do have Kiriloff, or maybe Royce Lewis, or a number of other considerations. Again, it boils down to money for a 3-5 year extension...and if the Twins even see that need depending on rating the prospects. I still wonder what would've happened had the Twins traded him to the Mets before the deadline...something I would've seriously considered depending on other pieces.

 

We also forget that the Twins have two more pressing pieces. Rosario and Berrios.

 

Is Berrios the Ace? Attutude there for good or bad. Be interesting to see if the deal has sweetened even more from the pre-2019 talks.

 

Rosario may be at his most valuable. See what happens in the playoffs. But over the years this Twins Daily board has been on the guy for non-clutch hitting, weak outfield play, always astonished when he does put up good numbers, and we wonder if it will continue. Even of late some have called him an average outfielder...like the marketplace is full of guys who hit .270 with 30 homers and 100 rbi. Well, we will find out. Like the quality season Delmon Young gave the Twins, I would almost NOT gamble on him being great and see what he could bring back in trade value this off-season. Are Raley or Rooker ready? Do we believe in Cave as a fulltime guy? Is LaMonte Wade a true prospect who could replicate something similar to Rosario? Remember, we have to find room for Larnach sometime soon, too. 

    • mikelink45 and rdehring like this

Tough decision, but Sano's rise as a power hitter in the second half has convinced me. Best thing the Twins can do next season is trade Buxton for a prospect, then fast-track Lewis, Larnach and Kiriloff, along with the promising starters in AA. Time to harvest the farm system. Bring up Ben Rortvedt to back up Garver, release Castro. 

    • birdwatcher, mikelink45 and Bandit34 like this
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diehardtwinsfan
Sep 24 2019 05:39 AM

It should be Buxton... but there's a really big IF in front of that. If he stays healthy... if he produces like he did this year... it will be Buxton. I think he's worked out the issues with his bat thankfully, but the health part is definitely something he's going to have to address, whether that's a bit more situational awareness when it comes to defensive acrobatics or figuring out how to bulk up/train in such a way to reduce his injury likeliness. 

 

If that doesn't happen, it's probably goign to be Sano. 

    • Sconnie, SF Twins Fan and sloopjont like this
This is a question that really can't be answered because in my opinion it all evolves around Buxtons health, since it seems Sano has turned the corner on the health issue. Unless of course he shows up next spring at 325. IF both are healthy it's Buxton. Not only is he a elite CF, he is so good he makes his side mates look even better than they really are. A game changer on defense, and on the bases. His hitting was on the upswing, which followed his history in MiLB. Sano can flat out hit with power. But a good slider gets him out too often, and his defense anywhere on the field is easily replaced. So the question really is, will Buxton ever stay healthy? Sadly, I doubt that he will.
    • DocBauer, tarheeltwinsfan and wsnydes like this

Sano has unquestionably proven himself at the big league level offensively. Defense isn't his strong suit, but the guy can play third.

 

Buxton was really breaking out this season as an all-around performer. It's a shame that injuries have continued to plague him.

 

Jury's out, IMO.If I had to guess, I'd say Sano has a better overall Twins career.

    • Jerr and DocBauer like this
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twinssporto
Sep 24 2019 06:42 AM

It's an interesting question and a good problem to have. Who has more long term value, Sano or Buxton?  Asked another way, what car sitting in my garage will be more valuable in the future, the Porsche 911GT or Ferrari Testa Rossa? To be clear I don't own either and you can't compare ball players to cars but its just an example I thought of after reading the comments above.

 

In my mind, long term means 5-10 years.  I see Buxton being a huge impact player for the next 3-5 years. However, as he ages he's gonna lose a step or two in speed, etc. Long term I think Sano has the edge. He could be pounding out homers playing a DH or 1B role until he's 40 if he stays in good shape...A la Cruz, Ortiz, Thome, Bonds, etc, etc...

    • mikelink45, Sconnie, KGB and 1 other like this

 

So which player will provide more long-term value for the Twins, Sano or Buxton?

I am going to say Buxton. Maybe I am optimistic to the point of being naive, but I think he will have a number of healthy seasons in a row starting next season, and when he is healthy, he is one of the best players in all of MLB.

Buxton's true asset is speed and both age and injury can take that away.Does his bat play well on the corners?If he is CF he is terrific, but elsewhere he is not.I want Buxton on our team and hope he stays healthy for the next 10 years, but I would bet on Sano now.Thanks to Cruz, he has a role model that has helped him mature.His skill set has more staying power than Buxton's. 

 

So sign them both, sign Berrios and sign Rosario.We waited for the prospects to mature, now we need to keep them in place.  

    • Mike Frasier Law and tarheeltwinsfan like this

Buxton can't be a superstar unless he's on the field, so I go with Sano for this one.

    • Thrylos, Jerr, DocBauer and 3 others like this
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tarheeltwinsfan
Sep 24 2019 08:01 AM

 

Buxton's true asset is speed and both age and injury can take that away.Does his bat play well on the corners?If he is CF he is terrific, but elsewhere he is not.I want Buxton on our team and hope he stays healthy for the next 10 years, but I would bet on Sano now.Thanks to Cruz, he has a role model that has helped him mature.His skill set has more staying power than Buxton's. 

 

So sign them both, sign Berrios and sign Rosario.We waited for the prospects to mature, now we need to keep them in place.  

Mike, I agree with what you said. You were the first to mention Cruz as a positive influence on Sano. Exercise the option on Cruz, and the Twins get a better Sano.

    • Jerr, Oldgoat_MN and mikelink45 like this

I'm afraid that Buxton is, for lack of a better word, fragile. Don't forget the headache issue on top of the physical ailments. The future is an unknown and total guesswork based on hope. Right now its Sano for the simple reason that he's here and Buxton isn't and Sano is performing at a pretty high level. He also has the single biggest hit this season from which Cleveland has yet to recover.

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tarheeltwinsfan
Sep 24 2019 08:07 AM

Buxton has more potential in the short run (get it, "short run") but Sano has more potential until age 40, if he follow's Cruz's training and lifestyle examples and if the DH remains in the AL. So since the question is one of "long-term" value "potential", I'd vote for Sano.

    • mikelink45 and Sconnie like this

While I find assigning a value to players kind of abstract, Sano's future depends if he can improve to league average at 3B. If he sticks there, he's worth so much more than at 1B/DH.

Career win probability added:

Sano: 4.45
Buxton: -2.27

 

I'd take door number 1.

    • Jerr, notoriousgod71, tarheeltwinsfan and 4 others like this

IF he can figure out how to stay healthy, Buxton holds more long term value. But it's a huge IF.

    • DocBauer likes this

I think Buxton is trying too hard to be a superstar right now. If he can settle in as a great center fielder that catches -almost- everything and saves his speedy but fragile body from violent contact with hard objects, he'll be a very good player.

 

But Sano's turnaround in pitch recognition since June this year is amazing. I think he'll be a bigger contributor to a contending team than Buxton. 

    • mikelink45 and Bomba2026 like this
Speed doesn't age as well as power. Over their careers? Likely Sano. Over the next five years? Toss up for me.
    • Twins33, brvama, Oldgoat_MN and 1 other like this

Funny... as in kinda ridiclous:

 

Buxton's bWAR for 2019 is still somehow higher than Sano's. Exhibit A in the limitation of WAR, and the influence extreme and questionable math on the defensive side has on it.

 

Recency suggests Sano would have more future value. But, I think it's still a tough call. If Buxton played 140+ games a year in center field at the offensive level he established this year, he'd be more valuable than Sano. Sano would have to materially raise his BA/OBP (which probably means lowering the K rate) to match Buxton's value if that were to happen. Still, we're currently looking at Sano trending toward improving his value, while Buxton's value seems at risk. So it's really hard to not say Sano is the better bet right now. Tough call...as Bill Brown posted above...this is why the FO make the big bucks.

 

Buxton for me.His defense is top of the league valuable.Not sure Sano has a skill that will lead the league.Maybe home runs some year. Both are very valuable IF they can stay healthy

The fact that you acknowledge that Sano COULD lead the league in HR's some year...IMO, that's rationale for Sano having more future value, not Buxton. If I had a choice between the best defensive center fielder in the league...let's pretend he's around league average hitter....and the guy who leads the league in HR's, I'll take the guy who leads the league in HR's. Every time. IMO, the rationale for Buxton is that he is transformed offensively and his injury history pretty much immediately ends.

 

Funny... as in kinda ridiclous:

 

Buxton's bWAR for 2019 is still somehow higher than Sano's. Exhibit A in the limitation of WAR, and the influence extreme and questionable math on the defensive side has on it.

How quickly we forget how well Buxton was playing this season until his injury and the amount of impact he had on this Twins team. Buxton was on pace for a 6 WAR season, and assuming he can maintain his level of play for 150 games in a season (health permitting), I think he will provide more value than Sano in the upcoming years.

    • Platoon likes this

 

You posed the question.What say you?

    • Oldgoat_MN likes this

Buxton's ceiling is absolutely higher, however unless his bat improves tremendously it won't play at the corner outfield positions in his later years. Sano could be a productive DH/1b OPS'ing over .900 for many more years than Buck might be in the league.

 

No idea who ends up having the better Twins career. If I had to guess, I'd guess neither will have long Twins careers. 

 

Completely unrelated, but speaking of long careers, Trout could end up in the top ten in career WAR. 

    • Oldgoat_MN likes this
Im pretty sure Sano is not going to run into anything and hurt himself. Fat players do well, more padding. If Bucky can go all next year without being out most of the year, than I would not consider him trade bait. Unless for a good starting pitcher.

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